Application of Fairness Theory to Service Failures and Service Recovery
This article presents a fairness theory-based conceptual framework for studying and managing consumers' emotions during service recovery attempts. The conceptual framework highlights the central role played by counterfactual thinking and accountability. Findings from five focus groups are also presented to lend further support to the conceptual framework. Essentially, the article argues that a service failure event triggers an emotional response in the consumer, and from here the consumer commences an assessment of the situation, considering procedural justice, interactional justice, and distributive justice elements, while engaging in counterfactual thinking and apportioning accountability. More specifically, the customer assesses whether the service provider could and should have done something more to remedy the problem and how the customer would have felt had these actions been taken. The authors argue that during this process situational effort is taken into account when assessing accountability. When service providers do not appear to exhibit an appropriate level of effort, consumers attribute this to the service provider not caring. This in turn leads to the customer feeling more negative emotions, such as anger and frustration. Managerial implications of the study are discussed.
Journal of Service Research
© 2003 Sage Publications. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. First published in Journal of Service Research. This journal is available online: http://jsr.sagepub.com/content/vol5/issue3/